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Play Inspired By The Māori And Pasifika Workers At Iconic NZ Crockery Factory

A new heartwarming play inspired by the Māori and Pasifika workers at Crown Lynn, the iconic Kiwi crockery factory in Auckland, will debut at Te Pou Theatre in May.

The Handlers, written by Māori/Afro-Caribbean playwright Poata Alvie McKree and directed by Amber Curreen, is a comedy/drama about a whānau of Māori women working at Crown Lynn in West Auckland in the 1970s. They risk the threat of losing their jobs after they all take time off to attend a tangihanga, forcing the production line to come to a halt.

Actors Cian Parker, Aroha Rawson, and Nastassia Wolfgramm are set to perform in the new play, The Handlers. Photo: Andi Crown

Poata Alvie (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, St Vincent, Barbados) wrote The Handlers to pay tribute to the many Māori and Pasifika women who dedicated their working lives to Crown Lynn.

“I wanted to write about the kinds of compromises our whānau had to make, and the difficulties they faced working and living in a Pākehā world,” she says.

“I was struck by the discovery that at Crown Lynn, where possible, different ethnic groups were separated into different departments. At the same time, it was common with Māori employees for many members of one whānau to work at Crown Lynn - it begged the question, what would happen if there was a tangi?”

Crown Lynn was established in 1948 and filled New Zealand homes with locally made homeware and was well known for its iconic cups and saucers. By the 1960s, Crown Lynn was the largest pottery company in the Southern Hemisphere, producing 15 million pieces a year. By the 1980s, the company was in decline and closed in 1989.

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Director Amber Curreen (Ngāpuhi, Te Roroa, Te Rarawa), was compelled to direct The Handlers because she wanted to tell the stories of Māori and Pasifika working in factories in the 1970s.

“I have a visceral response to Crown Lynn crockery. It's tied up with what it is to grow up in Aotearoa. The cups are iconic but also are the experiences of Māori moving to the city for work in factories like Crown Lynn,” she says.

Alvie, who is proud of her dual Māori and Afro-Caribbean heritage, is an exciting new playwright to emerge in Aotearoa, with The Handers being her first play. The Handlers was previously developed by Black Creatives Aotearoa, an organisation dedicated to supporting creatives of African and Afro-Caribbean heritage living in New Zealand, and was further workshopped through Te Pou Theatre’s development of Māori playwrights at the Koanga Festival in 2022.

The Handlers stars Aroha Rawson (Mean Mums), Tuakoi Ohia (Ahikaaroa), Nastassia Wolfgramm (Tree), Cian Parker (Woman Far Walking), and Neil Rea (The Brokenwood Mysteries).

The Handlers is a co-production between Te Pou Theatre and Te Rēhia Theatre. Its debut season will be at Te Pou Theatre, Corban Estate Arts Centre, 2 Mt Lebanon Lane, Henderson Auckland, from 16 May – 2 June 2024

Early bird tickets are available until 31 March 2024. For tickets, visit: www.tepoutheatre.nz/the-handlers/

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